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Transferable Skills for Your Social-Impact Job Search

A portrait of a young woman holding a sign with "FOLLOW" on it while filming video.
Photo By seventyfourimages

Has the pandemic motivated you to leave your corporate job in search of a role in the social-impact space? The good news is, you don’t have to reinvent your career to switch sectors. Many of the communications skills required to be successful in a corporate setting are the same skills needed to excel at a nonprofit organization. 

But what are these skills, and how do you articulate them as you transition from a corporate communications role? Below are four transferable skills to highlight in your job search.

Writing and editing

An important thing to emphasize here is the variety of audiences for which you’ve written, and the types of writing you’ve produced. Examples of corporate audiences relative to nonprofit audiences are investors, who are akin to funders or donors, and business partners, who are comparable to NGO partners. Highlighting your ability to craft messages for different audiences will prove your versatility.

Additionally, nonprofits have brands just like corporate companies do, so be sure to share any work you’ve done that required adhering to or promoting your company’s brand. 

And don’t forget to list all the channels for which you’ve written—including websites, email newsletters, social media platforms, or any other mediums that demonstrate your ability to adapt.

Media relations

One of the most coveted transferable skills is media relations, as breaking into the press proves to be a huge challenge for some organizations. Have you written press releases or pitched reporters? Both are relevant in the social-impact sector. And if you have specific journalist contacts from your corporate communications work that you can bring with you, be sure to mention those relationships, which you can leverage in your future role.

Perhaps you’ve coordinated interviews between reporters and expert executive leadership, or organized press conferences. This knowledge and experience could be valuable to an organization seeking to raise its visibility and public profile.

And if you can train others to communicate effectively with reporters, you’ll be able to build an organization’s capacity from within. Highlight any experience you have preparing others for interviews with the press, explaining journalistic jargon, or drafting concise talking points for an interview.

Marketing

When it comes to marketing, consider both the campaigns you’ve developed and the tools or platforms you’ve used. While the purpose and impact of a corporate communications campaign might not translate, the technology and tactics you used should. 

For example, did you research target audiences, allocate an advertising budget, or monitor the traffic generated through ads? Did you organize a Tweetstorm to create a conversation online and track the hashtag performance using a tool like TweetBinder? These transferable skills showcase your technical expertise and your understanding of marketing best practices.

Setting specific goals by which to measure the success of a campaign is another transferable skill. Keep in mind the end goal for a social-impact campaign will be different than for a corporate campaign, so tell an interviewer how you’d measure results for various goals, such as increasing individual donations, diversifying a volunteer base, expanding a signature program, or advancing policy changes.

Regardless of the environment, marketing compels people to take some sort of action, and often does so through storytelling. Highlight your ability to identify stories that resonate with key audiences.

Social media

Any corporate communications experience managing social media accounts, creating content, or developing an editorial calendar is directly applicable to a communications role in the social-impact space. Just be sure to emphasize that the goals and audiences may be different, and you’re prepared to adapt.

When discussing your social media skills, highlight the specific platforms you’re familiar with, along with any software you’ve used, such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Canva, or Tweetdeck.

Social-impact organizations will likely engage followers and fans differently than for-profit companies, but the transferable skill to emphasize is your ability to adopt the brand’s voice and tone when responding to direct messages or comments. 

And if you’re familiar with accessibility standards, such as alternate photo descriptions and color combinations that make graphics easier to read, be sure to mention it.

Corporate communications skills transfer easily

Oftentimes, nonprofits operate with a lean staff, inviting employees to wear multiple hats. Even if you’re applying for a role outside of communications, it would be worthwhile to note any of the skills mentioned above if you have them. Your range of experience will be an asset.

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Tiffany Woodall is the founder and job search strategist at Creating Better Mondays, where she helps passionate, purpose-driven people find jobs that feel fulfilling. Tiffany holds a B.A. in journalism from Penn State University and resides in Chapel Hill, NC.